The recently published Strategy for Sustainable Construction targets a significant increase in the amount of materials being procured from responsible sources by 2012. Mark Collinson, Construction Project Manager at WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) discusses how the new Reclaimed Building Products Guide can assist the industry in making more use of this sustainable alternative to new materials.
The recently launched Strategy for Sustainable Construction sets out a clear framework which is encouraging the industry to become more environmentally and economically sustainable. A blueprint that will stimulate widespread behavioural change across the sector, it sets out a broad range of targets aimed at improving industry performance in key areas such as health & safety, skills training, waste and material use.
One of the key targets included in the Strategy is that by 2012 the industry should be procuring a quarter of all the materials it uses from responsible sources. In the context of the Strategy, sourcing materials responsibly encompasses a wide range of socioeconomic factors - but one way in which industry can start to work towards meeting this target is through increasing the use of reclaimed materials.
Reclaimed building products guide
To help the industry better understand the opportunities available in this important area, WRAP has recently published a comprehensive Reclaimed Building Products Guide. Designed to be as user-friendly as possible, the Guide clearly denotes what materials can be used, where to find them and how to successfully incorporate them into a design and construction project. Through careful examination of each product, the Guide outlines key criteria such as cost effectiveness and availability so the reader can quickly find the material they need information on. There are a number of case studies also included with the Guide that show how reclaimed materials have been incorporated into high profile projects such as London Zoo and the London Olympic Park.
Understandably, the financial implications of using reclaimed material vary, but the Guide highlights ‘Quick Wins’ where significant cost savings can be made. Timber, concrete paving and structural steel are all products that represent cost savings when sourced correctly. In the case of structural steel it is possible to save as much as 50 percent when compared to new material.
Reclaiming high quality period doors can also be more cost effective than manufacturing reproduction doors. According to the Guide, a reclaimed period door can cost between £30 and £600 while a reproduction door will usually cost between £100 and £800.
Reclaimed products covered in the Guide therefore range from those offering 80 percent savings when compared to new materials - to those that represent 200 percent cost premiums. However, where there are cost premiums, there is often added value in the provenance of the material or an opportunity to add value to the end project in question. For example, the material may have been salvaged onsite and therefore tells a story about the site’s history. Alternatively, it could have been salvaged from another building of interest or be a material that is no longer easily available through conventional or primary sources such as certain types of tropical hardwood.
In addition to the potential cost savings there are environmental benefits worth considering too. New construction material production in the UK annually accounts for 23 percent of national greenhouse gas emissions and 30 percent of all road freight.
So as the industry strives to work in a more sustainable way the use of reclaimed products offers a range of significant advantages over primary equivalents. When you take into account the possible financial savings, environmental benefits and the aesthetic or historical value that the use of reclaimed products can offer, their role as a viable alternative to new materials is simply too compelling to be ignored.
The Guide includes product information, case studies and a supplier directory covering England, Scotland and Wales. It is the newest in a series of online resources developed by WRAP which includes the Recycled Product Guide and the Recycled Content Toolkit. These resources are all freely available from the WRAP website: